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United States Solicitor General

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Official seal of the United States Department of Justice

The United States Solicitor General argues on behalf of the United States Government in front of the Supreme Court of the United States when the government is party to a case. According to the Office of the Solicitor General website, the United States Government is a party to approximately two-thirds of the cases decided on merits by the Supreme Court each year.

The Office also reviews lower court cases in which the Government was ruled against, in order to determine whether to appeal. The Office of the Solicitor General is part of the United States Department of Justice.[1]

Current Solicitor General

Donald Verrilli -DOJ Portrait-.jpg

Donald Verrilli, Jr. is the current Solicitor General of the United States. He is the 45th person to serve in the office and was sworn in on June 9, 2011.

Biography of Donald Verrilli, Jr.

Solicitor General Verrilli received his undergraduate degree from Yale University and his J.D. from Columbia Law School. He spent several years as a partner with the firm Jenner & Block, before serving as Associate Deputy Attorney General with the Department of Justice. Before becoming Solicitor General, he was Deputy Counsel to President Barack Obama.[2]


The Attorney General is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate. He or she serves at the pleasure of the President and can be removed by the President at any time.[3]

History of the office

The position of Solicitor General was created with the Act to Establish the Department of Justice on July 1, 1870.[4]

Responsibilities of the Solicitor General

The two main responsibilities of the Office are to represent the federal government in the Supreme Court and to decide whether to appeal decisions the government has lost in the lower federal courts. In addition, the Office files amicus curiae briefs and may defend the constitutionality of an Act of Congress.[5]

According to Solicitor General Simon Sobeloff:

The Solicitor General is not a neutral, he is an advocate; but an advocate for a client whose business is not merely to prevail in the instant case. My client's chief business is not to achieve victory, but to establish justice.[5] [6]

Dual roles

The Solicitor General serves in the Executive Branch, at the pleasure of the President of the United States. He also represents the interests of the Supreme Court, adhering to stare decisis and defending the Court's jurisdiction. Because of the responsibility the Solicitor General has to the Supreme Court, the individual holding the office is sometimes referred to as "the tenth justice."[5]

History of the office

The first Solicitor General of the United States was Benjamin H. Bristow, who served in the position from 1870 to 1872. Below is a table of all other Solicitor Generals, in addition to their years of service. (External links will direct you to official biographies from the United States Department of Justice website.)

Solicitor General Years of service
Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. 2011-Present
Elena Kagan 2009-2010
Gregory G. Garre 2008-2009
Paul D. Clement 2005-2008
Theodore B. Olson 2001-2004
Seth P. Waxman 1997-2001
Walter Dellinger 1996-1997
Drew S. Days 1993-1996
Kenneth Starr 1989-1993
Charles Fried 1985-1989
Rex Lee 1981-1985
Wade Hampton McCree, Jr 1977-1981
Robert Heron Bork 1973-1977
Erwin Nathaniel Griswold 1967-1973
Thurgood Marshall 1965-1967
Archibald Cox 1961-1965
J. Lee Rankin 1956-1961
Simon E. Sobeloff 1954-1956
Walter J. Cummings 1952-1953
Philip B. Perlman 1947-1952
James Howard McGrath 1945-1946
Charles Fahy 1941-1945
Francis Beverly Biddle 1940-1941
Robert Houghwout Jackson 1938-1940
Stanley Reed 1935-1938
James Crawford Biggs 1933-1935
Thomas Day Thacher 1930-1933
Charles Evan Hughes, Jr. 1929-1930
William DeWitt Mitchell 1925-1929
James Montgomery Beck 1921-1925
William L. Frierson 1920-1921
Alexander Campbell King 1918-1920
John William Davis 1913-1918
William Marshall Bullitt 1912-1913
Frederick W. Lehmann 1910-1912
Lloyd Wheaton Bowers 1909-1910
Henry M. Hoyt 1903-1909
John K. Richards 1897-1903
Holmes Conrad 1895-1897
Lawrence Maxwell, Jr. 1893-1895
Charles H. Aldrich 1892-1893
William Howard Taft 1889-1890
Orlow W. Chapman 1889-1890
George A. Jenks 1886-1889
John Goode 1885-1886
Samuel F. Phillips 1872-1885
Benjamin Bristow 1870-1872

See also

External links